By Mark The Goodpen
The following story is a work of fiction. If you find material like this offensive, then that's your problem I didn't make you read this. If you're under age, get out!! You're still there aren't you? Oh well I tried.
Seriously though, to read this story you need to be able to separate fantasy from reality and know when to keep it zipped. There is a large difference between words on a page and real actions. Remember that. The characters in this story are fictional and not in anyway meant to depict any real person living or dead.
This is my story and my own words, if you want to post, or make a profit on a story create your own! Thank you.
Thank you to everyone who e-mailed me about part one, I truly value your feedback.
Feedback is always welcome, whether it be positive comments, constructive criticism or even a suggestion. Simply e-mail me at email@example.com. Please put Sierra Inn in the subject of your e-mail. I will try my hardest to reply to all e-mails.
That night turns out to be the longest I've experienced in my 27 years on this earth. After getting back to my office I just stare at the computer screen, unable to do anything but think about what I may or may not have gotten myself into. All the while hoping that come morning I will actually have the problem of what to do with that blue eyed runaway. After spending seemingly an eternity staring at the computer I am actually able to clear my thoughts enough to finally place the order for toilet paper with my supplier. I spend the rest of the night on the old couch in my office trying without success to get some sleep. My mind is going 1000 miles per hour ruining any chance I have at sleep.
As I lay, quite uncomfortably I might add, on the sofa staring up at the ceiling in my now dark office I wonder why it is I care so much. This isn't the first runaway I've come across, and unless the cops do some drastic cleaning up in the area he probably won't be the last either. Still no one in the past has affected me like this. Maybe it's because he was so young, or because even though he only said a handful of words I know more of his story than any other runaway I have ever come across. All the tossing and turning, and staring I do that night brings me no closer to a resolution on what to do. You're probably thinking adopt him! But the last thing on earth I need is more responsibilities especially the numerous ones that go along with raising a child, and not just any child at that, but a child that has clearly been emotionally damaged.
Finally morning comes, and I slip off the couch. My first thought is to go check on my confusion that is probably still sleeping in room 120 but I decide that he probably needs to sleep later than six o'clock so instead I go to the lobby, to supervise the shift change. OK the Sierra Inn's version of a shift change consists of my three maids coming in and going straight to the supply room to stock their carts for their rounds and Laura coming in at six fifteen to relieve Juan for the day.
The lobby already has a couple of guests sitting at the tables in our "breakfast area" where we have a couple of different cereals and those donuts, even the glazed type. Juan is still standing at his post obviously counting the minutes until Laura walks through the door. I can't afford many employees, so the ones I do have are forced to work long hours, I'm just fortunate to have found people that like to work almost as much as I do.
"Good morning gentlemen," Laura says, beaming as always, as she comes through the door. "How is our team doing this morning?"
"Tired," Juan says with a yawn. "I need to get some sleep."
"Well you go on home, and rest that tired head of yours," Laura says. "And how's my favorite boss?"
"Living," I say as I check the computer for the occupancy rate of the previous night.
"Well you don't look like it," Laura says. "I'll put up some coffee," she adds before going into the back where the employee coffee maker is located.
I am trying to force my tired brain to do the math on the numbers the computer screen is showing when the jingle of the bells tied around the door handle of the side door gets my attention. The side door is the one the guests use when they come into the lobby from their room. I looked up as a reflex, not really expecting to see anyone I knew, least of all Brian. But when I look up there is Brian walking cautiously towards the counter where the box of donuts is sitting. A sudden bizarre mixed rush of relief and tension courses through my body when I see the little runaway, I'm relieved to know he stayed safe through the night but now I actually have to figure out what to do with him.
I stand there, behind the front desk, not realizing that I am staring at Brian. His brown hair looks wet and when he turns around and looks at me I see his bangs are plastered to his forehead. For the first time I get a good look at the little guy that kept me awake all night, without him even knowing it. He looks about eleven years old, probably just a hair short of five feet, he's not skinny but not fat either I guess you would say he's height weight proportionate. His moving towards the front desk snaps me from my reverie.
"You said I could have one," Brian says, as he stops right in front of the desk, holding the donut in his hand but not yet taking a bite. He looks right at me as he speaks, and I swear those blue eyes shoot laser beams right through me and the wall that stands behind me.
"I sure did," I say. "I'm glad you stayed."
"I promised I would," he says. "I can't break a promise."
I smile at that comment apparently this child has been able to maintain some of his youthful innocence, even with being on the streets. I hear the clank of coffee mug hitting counter top coming from the back, and I realize I am going to have to explain this little guy to Laura. I can only hope she has an idea about what to do next.
"Well I'm happy to hear that," I say with a smile. "Why don't you go over to that table over there to eat and I'll be over there in a second," I say pointing to a vacant table by the window. Brian nods before going to take a seat.
Just as Brian takes a seat at the table, Laura comes out to the front desk her ever present smile still on her face.
"Coffee is brewing," she says, as she stands next to me, trying to read what it is I am doing on the computer.
"Thanks, I really need it this morning," I say, my body waking up slightly just knowing that it will be receiving a very much needed dose of caffeine in a matter of moments. "Laura can I talk to you in back for a sec?" I ask, somewhat nervously.
"Sure," Laura says, the smile temporarily leaving her face.
I am not sure how I am going to tell her about Brian, after all I still do not know what to do with him. When we get into the corridor that leads from the front desk to my office and the small break room I tell Laura about the events of last night. Laura's smile disappears once again when I tell her about Brian.
"Well we need to call Child Services," Laura says. "We can't just let him go back on the street."
"I know we can't let him go back on the street," I say. "But I don't want to send him back into foster care. I mean we do that he'll probably just runaway again."
"Kevin don't start getting noble on me," Laura says. "What are going to do adopt him?"
"No..." I say, I want to say more but I get interrupted.
"Then we have to make that call," Laura says, almost simultaneously turning for the phone.
"No wait!" I say. "Give me time, I'll figure out something just please don't call CPS yet," I beg.
"What's gotten into you?" Laura asks. "I've never seen you like this."
"Look, I had a friend in middle school that was from a foster home," I say, as I remember my nearly forgotten friend. "The stories he told... I can't send someone back to that. Not until I make sure there's no better way."
I feel a lump of tears form in my throat, though I have no clue why. I hadn't thought about those stories I had heard about being in foster care since I was a young teenager, and they never got me emotional. I guess you could say I'm somewhat emotionally detached, I can't remember the last time I cried about anything.
"Fine, I'll give you today," Laura says. "But you better think of something that will actually work."
"Thank you," I say, with a small sigh of relief. "You want to meet him?" I ask, thinking that if Laura actually meets Brian, he'll be more than just a name and maybe she'll extend her timeline for calling CPS.
"OK," she says a hint of a smile returning to her face.
I lead Laura over to the table where Brian is still sitting, though his donut has vanished. He is starring out the window at the small pool that sits right outside the lobby. I approach the table slowly, not wanting to spook him out of whatever daydream he is having.
"Brian," I say softly. "I have someone I'd like you to meet."
Brian turns to look at me, as I take a seat across from him, Laura sits on the chair facing the window.
"This is Laura," I say. "She works for me, and she's a very good friend of mine."
"How are you Brian?" Laura asks, that omnipresent smile once again spreading across her face.
"OK, I guess," Brian says, cautiously.
We sit in an awkward silence for what seems like a small eternity. I hadn't really thought of anything to say after the introduction figuring Laura would carry the conversation but she just sits there, still smiling, but absolutely silent.
"Were you comfortable last night?" I ask Brian, suddenly going into my customer service mode not knowing what else to say.
Brian doesn't say anything, just nods his head yes. I guess he hasn't developed his motel critiquing skills yet.
"Do you want me to leave now?" Brian asks suddenly.
"No we're not sending you back out onto the street," I say quickly. "You can stay here until we figure out something permanent. Ouch!" I jump as I feel Laura's foot hit my shin.
"Did I kick you?" Laura says, sounding sorry but looking stern. "Sorry about that, muscle spasm."
"No problem," I say returning her stern look.
"Well we better get back to work," Laura says. "People will start checking out soon."
"Yeah I need to run home for a few minutes," I say. "Brian there's a T.V in the back, if you want to hang out back there, Laura will get you set up."
"OK," Brian says as he starts to stand up.
Laura leads him into the back and I slowly limp my way out to the parking lot. My mind is still racing at 1000 miles per hour but I know I need to collect my thoughts, time is not my friend right now. When Laura says she is going to do something at a certain time, she is going to do it and most likely fifteen minutes before she said she would.
I speed to my apartment, I hate leaving the motel in the morning but if I don't go home to shower we'll have a hard time getting guests to stay. The entire drive takes me five minutes, I almost trip over myself as I get out of my car and head up the stairs to my second floor apartment. My apartment is the text book definition of a bachelor pad, clothes thrown about in every which way only my bar stool stands above the mess. I negotiate my way through the mess back to the bathroom and start running the shower. The hot water soon starts creating steam in the small room, signaling to me that it's time for me to get in.
As I stand under the shower head, letting the hot water run down on my head and flow down my body I try to slow my mind down and really start problem solving. As a business man I believe every problem has a solution, you just have to look hard enough. My problem right now, quite simply, is Brian. I hate calling him a problem, maybe I should say Brian's situation is my problem not Brian himself. I know he can't live at the motel, that would be dumb. I know I can't take him in that would almost be dumber. Logic would dictate calling CPS and telling them I found one of their, probably, thousands of runaways. But I think to myself when was the last time I did anything logical? I'm the kid who told his Dad to shut up during a lecture, my ass still hurts from that one. Anyway, I know even if I did call CPS Brian would just runaway again and next time he might not be so lucky on the streets.
After staying in the shower for probably five minutes too many I get out rush to get dressed then dash my way back to my car and speed back to the motel. When I get back into the lobby Laura is giving a guest his bill. Tom is a regular, he drives shipments of laundry detergent from Los Angeles to a warehouse in Texas and we're always his first stop going eastbound, and his last stop going west.
"Hey Kevin, longtime no see," Tom says with a smile as he sees me come through the door.
"Hi Tom, nice to see you again," I say, as I extend my hand for a handshake. "Let me guess you're heading west."
"Close," Tom says with a laugh. "No, I'm heading back to Austin, only have a couple more runs."
"What?" I ask, surprised.
"Yeah, Tom's going back to college," Laura says, almost sounding like a proud parent.
Tom isn't much older than I am, maybe in his mid thirties at the oldest. He is one of the nicest of our regulars and I am truly disappointed to hear he won't be coming around much longer.
"That's great," I say, faking happiness. "What made you go back?"
"I'm getting married," Tom says, his face beaming with pride. "This old cowboy finally decided to settle down, and the little lady doesn't want her old man out on the road all the time."
"Do you know what you're going to major in?" I ask.
"I'm following my Mama," Tom says. "I'm gonna be a teacher."
I have to stop myself from laughing, Tom is actually serious but the thought of this burly man in front of a classroom of kids the entire day is quite comical.
"Well good luck," I say. "Make sure to catch me on your next run."
"Sure will," Tom says, once again shaking my hand before I make my way to the back.
Brian is sitting at the small round table in the broom closet sized room I call my employee lounge. On the counter near the sink is a small 13 inch T.V that I'm pretty sure is older than me. Good Morning America is on and I can tell from the look on Brian's face he is watching it because the television does not have cable and not because he wants to hear the news.
"Hey kiddo," I say, hoping that a friendly tone will help Brian open up more to me. He has told me plenty already, even if he hasn't said many words but I don't think I've seen any of his true personality.
"Hi," he says, again making eye contact with me, and instantly I feel those laser beams.
"So what do you like to do for fun?" I ask, making sure I keep the topic away from his current situation.
"I used to skateboard," he says, which kind of takes me by surprise I wouldn't have pegged him to be a skater. "But that was along time ago, before everything changed."
"Where did you used to board?" I ask.
"Just my neighborhood," he says. "My Mom didn't let me go to any skate park, she said I was too little and I would get run over."
"You're Mom sounds like my Mom," I say with a laugh. "There weren't many skate parks when I was growing up, so I built a ramp in my backyard."
"You used to skateboard?" he asks, sounding just as surprised to hear that I used to skateboard as I was to hear that he did.
"Yeah," I say, with a little chuckle. "I wasn't always this ancient you know."
"You're not ancient," he says. "You're old but not ancient," he adds with a little giggle, it's the first time I've ever heard him make any sound close to a laugh and that sound is like music to my ears.
"Thanks," I say. "So what else do you like to do for fun?"
"I used to go swimming a lot," he says, instantly reminding me of how he was ogling the pool earlier. "I'm really good too, I can hold my breath for a really long time and dive to the bottom of the deep end."
"Awesome," I say. "I never liked swimming, messes with my hair," I add, while lightly running my hands through my gelled hair. Brian giggles, slightly again at my poor attempt at humor, and hearing him laugh makes me smile too.
Just then Laura comes in from the front office, and quickly makes her way to the coffee pot on the counter on the opposite side of the sink from the television.
"Are you behaving yourself back here?" Laura asks, as she pours coffee into her mug.
"Yes ma'am," Brian says politely.
"I was asking Kevin," Laura says, with a laugh.
"Yeah, yeah I know I'm a trouble maker," I say.
Brian laughs again, and for the first time I see him actually relax his shoulders back from the tense position they have been in since I first saw him last night. Seeing him relaxed like this, and after talking with him only makes me want to help him that much more.
"Hey Laura, when was the last time I took a day off?" I ask her, as an idea suddenly pops into my brain.
"I don't know, my memories not that good," she says.
"Do you think you can hold down the fort here for awhile?" I ask. "I think Brian and I are going to take a little field trip."
"That sounds like a good idea," Laura says.
"A field trip?" Brian asks, suspicion coming through in his voice. "Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise, but I promise it'll be fun," I say. "But we only go, if you want to."
"OK," he says, cautiously and for a second I see the tension returning to his shoulders.
"Cool," I say, with a smile. "But first can you do me a favor?" I ask.
"I guess," Brian says, his shoulders getting really tense for a second.
"Take this key," I say handing him my extra large key ring with more keys on it than I can count. "And go un-lock the gate to the pool."
Brian takes the key from me and quickly leaves the room, headed for the gate.
"I can't send him back to CPS," I tell Laura, when I'm sure he is out of earshot.
"Kevin, don't do anything stupid," Laura says. "You have a lot to lose here."
"I know," I say, nodding my head. "But sometimes you just have to gamble."
"What are you going to do?" Laura asks.
"I still don't know," I say. "But you still have eight hours left in your shift, which should give me plenty of time."
"Well you're idea better be a good one," Laura says. "If I'm going to risk arrest for it."
"Oh come on Laura, you really think they even know he's missing?" I ask. "He's just a number to them."
"The fact is we don't know what they know," Laura says. "And I just don't know if it's worth the risk."
Before I can respond Brain comes back into the room, holding out the key ring for me to take it back.
"Thanks kiddo," I say, taking my keys back from him. "Ready to hit the road?"
"Yeah," he says, slightly more relaxed than before but the tension is still there.
"Cool," I say. "See you later Laura."
"Bye Kevin," she says. "Have fun Brian," she adds, quickly before we leave the room.
Brian and I head out from the lobby and I lead him to my parked car. When I get the doors unlocked, Brian stops a very tentative look on his face.
"Brian, you can trust me," I say as I look over the roof of my car at him standing on the other side just kind of starring at the passenger door. "I promise we're going to have fun today, and no strings attached."
"What?" he asks, clearly confused by my last statement.
"You don't have to pay me back in anyway for the fun," I say. "It's my treat."
Slowly he opens the door and starts to get in, I quickly follow his lead. We ride in silence, Brian clearly nervous about where we are going. Part of me thinks I should just tell him but I feel that the surprise of it will make things just that much more fun for the both of us. As we are stopped at a red light, I take a quick glance at my little passenger and wonder what he is thinking about. His face looks like he is lost deep in some thought or day dream. I can only imagine what he has seen out on the streets the past few weeks. I never lived on the streets, so I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like especially for someone as young as Brian. But I think it is safe for me to assume, the streets are not a fun place for anyone to live.
Finally I pull into the parking lot of Target, the lot is almost completely empty as store has just opened. I pull into a spot very close to the door and kill the engine. I unbuckle my seatbelt and start to get out, but I hear no movement from my passenger.
"This is my surprise?" Brian asks me sounding a little disappointed.
"Part of it," I say. "Don't worry we're not spending the whole day here. Come on the sooner we get into the store the sooner we get out."
Seemingly seeing my logic Brian gets out of the car and follows me into the store. I quickly lead us to the back of the store and the sporting goods department, right to the aisle where the skateboards are. OK, maybe they aren't professional skateboards but at eight o'clock in the morning and on my budget this is the best I can do, and I figure it's better than nothing.
"So which one do you like?" I ask.
"What?" Brian asks.
"Which board do you like?" I ask. "Personally I'm partial to Sponge Bob."
"That one, looks like the one I used to have," Brian says pointing to a board with a seemingly eclectic mosaic of blues, reds and yellows streaking the underside and yellow wheels.
"Very nice choice," I say, gulping slightly as I see the price sticker on the shelf underneath the board, of coarse he likes the most expensive one. "So is that the one you want then?"
"It would be," Brian says. "But I don't have any money."
"I do," I say, unable to stop the smile from coming to my face as I say it.
"What?" Brian asks, a look of shock on his face.
"I have the money," I say. "You just have to promise me to wear a helmet, I don't want to have to clean up your brains from all over the sidewalk."
"You're seriously going to buy it for me?" Brian asks.
"Sure am, and a helmet too," I say. "But a cool looking one, not one of those dorky type helmets, you need to look cool you know to get the chicks," I say, obviously trying to sound more hip and with it than I actually am. Brian blushes slightly at my last comment, but then quickly grabs the skateboard from the shelf as though waiting to do so would allow me too much time to change my mind.
We quickly pick out a helmet, a standard black one with no logos or anything then make our way to the cash register. A look of excitement is on Brian's face that I've only seen on a few people a handful of times. After paying we head out to the car, I offer to put the board into the trunk but Brian insists on holding onto it even though there is barely enough room for both it and him in the front seat. Again the ride is silent as I drive us to our next stop. This time Brian spends the entire ride just starring at his new skateboard, seemingly not caring at all about where we might be headed. It takes awhile but we finally get to the main part of Brian's surprise. I park the car and it's only the stopping of the engine that breaks Brian's concentration on the skateboard.
"You need a place to test the thing out," I say, as I see the smile coming to Brian's face when he sees the skate park on the other side of the chain link fence from the parking lot.
Brian almost leaps through the roof of the car instead of using the door, as he tries desperately to get himself and the board out at the same time. After he somehow succeeds in the seemingly impossible task, I have to clear my throat to get his attention. He looks back at me as I stand next to the car with his helmet in hand.
"Remember our deal?" I ask.
"Oh yeah," Brian says as he comes over to me. "This isn't a dorky one right?"
"Not at all," I say, shaking my head. "I think it's the coolest looking helmet they make."
"That's what I was thinking," Brian says, quickly putting the skateboard down and grabbing the helmet from me.
The helmet goes on the boy's head, the boy goes on the board and in about two seconds flat I am left in the proverbial dust. I walk over to the chain link fence and just stand there watching Brian, in the other wise empty skate park, ride his skateboard around the perimeter for the longest time just getting the feel for the board. As I watch him I almost forget about the fact that I have to figure out a solution to keep Laura off the phone. Though when I remember that fact my brain starts spinning again. Maybe the logical thing would be to call CPS, but something won't let me admit that to Laura. I have to think of something else, something better for Brian, he deserves better, so much better.
To Be Continued....
Comments/suggestions are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Part 3 coming soon!!